INTERVIEW: Taking Back Sunday

Published in The Music (WA) | 26.03.14 | Issue # 31


If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Taking Back Sunday should be near invincible. It’s been 15 years, but guitarist Jonathon Nolan tells Daniel Cribb they’ve finally got it right.
It’s a cool winter evening in November 2012 as this writer pushes his way through a busy Friday night crowd in New York’s Times Square towards a quiet side street and a seemingly bland grey building. Breaking free from the hustle and bustle of the peak hour traffic littered with suits, an endless line of black T-shirt-wearing Taking Back Sunday fans are filing into the complex. The building is Best Buy Theater, just off Broadway, and it isn’t long before it hits capacity.
Having a steady following around the world, another packed out Friday night in Manhattan isn’t anything new – what makes the show really special is the band’s playing their debut record Tell All Your Friends start to finish, celebrating its ten-year anniversary. Even better, it’s with the original line-up, the same that recorded it.
“Every night, the crowd reaction was unbelievable,” guitarist Jonathon Nolan recalls of the tour. After forming in 1999 and releasing TAYF in 2002, bassist Shaun Cooper and Nolan departed from the band in 2003, which saw a revolving roster of members over three records, until 2010, when they both returned, and recorded album number five, Taking Back Sunday in 2011, a year later embarking on the Tell All Your Friends tour. “We knew it would be good, but were also very conscious about not wanting to become a nostalgia act, so it was a little dangerous to do a tour like that,” he says.
“I think it worked out and we did it right… we moved on from that immediately to the new record, which I think was important – that we didn’t just have the Tell All Your Friends tour and that be the last thing we do then there’s just a three-year break where you don’t hear anything from the band.”
The excitement from recording Taking Back Sunday, touring it and performing Tell All Your Friends again transformed into inspiration, which had nowhere else to go but into the new record, Happiness Is, a record that was churned out faster than previous. And now, in 2014, they’ve three sold out shows at Best Buy Theater on the Happiness Is tour.
“This felt like the band’s second record for me, and I think everybody. Even though we did Tell All Your Friends together, it was so long ago and so much happened between then and then reconnecting for the self-titled album, the self-titled one felt like starting with a new band from scratch.
“So this one felt like more of a follow-up record and I think we had more confidence going into it because we had so much touring and so much writing experience, and I think it comes through on the record; I think you can tell that there’s more of a connection between all of us – you can hear it in the music.”
That connection stems from forming a band as teenagers and only having one goal in sight, and adds another level of strength to its members. “The group of people that are in Taking Back Sunday right now, we’re the kind of people that all we ever wanted to do was play music in a band. That was it. We didn’t have a back-up plan… there’s been plenty of times in the career of Taking Back Sunday that – even though the band has been pretty steadily successful – there’s been a lot of points where I think a lot of other people would have called it quits. It’s not any easy thing to keep up for the amount of time the band has been together,” he admits.
The path to album number six wasn’t as easy as it sounds, and it seems Nolan and Cooper re-joining may have been what stopped the band from disbanding. “The time I wasn’t in the band, talking to the guys about their experiences over the years, those guys have been through a lot; there’s a lot that’s happened in their personal lives, and it has to do with being in a band, it puts a strain on you personally and the lives of the people around you, and it puts a strain the relationship between the people in the band. It drives people towards crazy things, and those guys have been through a lot of crazy things and they never called it quits.
“When I came back to the band and talked to them about the experiences that they had in the time when I was gone, I couldn’t believe that they were still doing it and that they were still friends with each other… I needed a fresh start, and they did too. It was a pretty great thing that it worked out the way it did; it almost felt like we were hitting some kind of reset button and just starting fresh and focusing on the future.”